A Code of Love is Woven into Artisanal Crafts: A conversation with Fetzer advisor for Labor, Trades, and Crafts, Marcella Echavarria,

Marcella Echavarria, deputy editor of HAND/EYE Magazine, has used her passion for art, design, culture, craft, and sustainable development to create a better world by linking developing communities to developed markets. Working one-on-one with artisans all over the world, she helps to preserve their craft and enhance profitability.

In this interview excerpt, Marcella reflects on love, forgiveness, and compassion in her life and her work with artisans all over the world.

Where is love, forgiveness and compassion most present in your life and work?

First of all, I don’t make a division in my life between life and work. My life is my life and I operate under the same principles as a whole so that’s one main difference and, you know, love and forgiveness, I think they’re just hiding. They’re always there but they’re hiding because it’s an embarrassing thing. So one has to be like an archeologist, and I have actually developed a methodology from working with artisans around the world. For example, last week I was in Peru and I worked with six different communities in Ayacucho, the place where there was the Shining Path for 20 years and there were a lot of massacres and a lot of horrible things. People just were completely shut down for 20 years, and now they’re building their lives through their talents and through the work of their ancestors. So the first question I asked in my workshops was, what do you like? And the first reaction was they had tears in their eyes. A lot of people responded like what do you mean, you care about what I like? So just starting from that reflection, you let people know the world needs to know who you are, what you like, what you care about, and that will be expressed in the product that you’re going to sell. So it’s basically taking the equations and taking the role of capitalism, but taking it back into the love and compassion exercise because it has been basically denied of a lot of its real sense.

Then I asked, who are the people that work in this organization? I want to meet with all of them around the circle and I want to talk about what they like. And, you know, a lot of them what they liked was to look at their dog when they came home—to look at their dog’s eyes—things that were of a spiritual and of an essential nature instead of materialistic. So I mean let’s go back to that, right?

Handmade Products Carry Personal Messages; Love

Basically what I think is that a handmade product —it’s an expression of a person’s past, present, and even future. So it’s not just a random product. It’s not just a product that fulfills a function. It’s much more than that. It’s a product that carries many messages and messages that maybe we don’t understand completely. There is a code of love intertwined in, for example, a lot of the Peruvian weaving and tapestries that we find. So it’s really—it’s the “unraveling” of that tapestry that needs to happen for love to be able to come into its deserved place. Now it’s sort of hiding and not very prominent in everything. It has to go to a process of decoding so that it comes forward again.

In my field—in crafts and the handmade world—there is really not the possibility to divorce the self from the object because the object is about the self. I find the most interesting crafts people around the world are the ones that are connected to their own being on many different levels and that’s not easy because it’s not popular to be connected.

You can see how handmade products are really prevalent and how a lot of, for example, of the luxury brands, Hermes and Louis Vuitton, and all of them are going back to that artisanal, handmade, slow, unique way of doing things. And that’s just another way of saying making things with love they are branding themselves around and they’re called “heritage collections.” So they’re branding themselves around that idea of like everything past was better, but it’s not that. It’s just basically let’s go back to love. So it’s really interesting what’s happening in the fashion world, and there are a lot of new fashion brands that are being founded on the principal of let’s work with artisans; let’s do things differently; let’s stop this massive consumption that is driving everybody crazy and that created the financial bubble. Let’s do things in a different way so it’s really, really changing at a rapid speed actually faster than I thought it would.

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